1964KoreaBinghamton, NY, USAChefEducatorScholar
Robert Ku was born in Korea, in the city of Incheon, the birthplace of jjajangmyeon and tangsuyuk, which just might be his death row meal. When he was eight his family moved to Hawai‘i, where he survived on plate lunches at Grace’s, Zip Pacs at Zippy’s, and saimin at McDonald’s. After high school he moved further east, to California, which he considers his Lost Years, having only lousy Seventh-Day Adventist vegetarian food (fake meat!) to eat for five years at his college dining hall. Then he was saved! No, not by the long haired guy who turned water into wine (although that’s a neat trick, if you ask him), but by moving to New York City, where he discovered falafels in Greenwich Village, beef and barley soup at the Kiev, xiaolongbao at Joe’s Shanghai, vindaloo at Jackson Diner (before it was ruined by the hipsters), doro wat at Meskerem, and kalbi at Kang Suh when they still used real charcoal in tabletop grills. Oh, and by some miracle he finished his Ph.D. in English at CUNY [City University of New York] and by a bigger miracle got his first academic job at Hunter College, where he directed the Asian American Studies Program for a couple of years. Then he moved back west briefly and chaired the Department of Ethnic Studies at Cal[ifornia] Poly[technic], San Luis Obispo, where he discovered his love of Central Coast Pinot and Dungeness crab, and for the first time realized what REAL strawberries tasted like. Which brings us to the present and the place he now calls home, Binghamton, New York, where he is an associate professor of Asian American studies at Binghamton University. Yes, Binghamton: if we were to be kind, we’d call it the birthplace of the spiedie (sigh). If we were blunt, we’d call it a culinary Waste Land. Sigh. But despite the bad food, or perhaps because of it, Binghamton is in his heart. After all, this is where he met his wife, where their twin boys were born, where he has a community of dear friends, and where he finished his two books: his co-edited (with Martin Manalansan and Anita Mannur) volume, Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader (New York University Press, 2013), and his monograph, Dubious Gastronomy: The Cultural Politics of Eating Asian in the USA (University of Hawai‘i Press, 2014). Oh, and there is also a Wegman’s there! Shantih shantih shantih.   
jku@binghamton.eduLos Angeles, CA, USARobert Ji-SongKu